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Married to Oppression

12:11 PM, Feb 29, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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The Guardian has a fascinating piece on "The Arab world's first ladies of oppression," and how the wives of Arab dictators have served as objects of scorn in the Arab spring: 

Now, after 11 months of bloody repression of the pro-democracy uprising in Syria, with thousands dead and tens of thousands of refugees spilled over Syria's borders, [Syrian first lady Asama al-Assad's] careful public-relations strategy as the gentle British-born face of the regime has crumbled. When she appeared smiling and immaculately dressed on Sunday alongside her husband to vote in a referendum on a new constitution, it only deepened opposition accusations that she has become a modern-day Marie-Antoinette. The row over a shockingly fawning, lengthy puff-piece in American Vogue last year depicting Asma's Louboutin shoes and charity work, as well as a recent appearance at a rally hugging her children in support of her husband and an email to the Times explaining her backing of him, has reopened the debate about the role of dictators' wives in the Arab spring.

"Every revolution has its Lady Macbeth," sighed one Middle East expert in Paris. The dictators' wives are all very different, united by the varying degrees of hatred they inspired, eye-watering fortunes, expensive wardrobes and often a state-sanctioned so-called "feminism" or, like Asma al-Assad, charity work as a public distraction against the brutal realities of the regime.

There's a wealth of detail in the piece, so be sure and read the whole thing.

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